A project of the Center for Community Change

57 Senators Vote to Cripple Immigrants

Yesterday we were just 3 votes shy of seeing the Social Security Rights of thousands of naturalized citizens destroyed. The amendment, introduced by John Ensign of Nevada, would have cut-off naturalized citizens from their Social Security accounts if they could not prove that they were authorized to work when they contributed to the system.

Many of us are aware that the Social Security system is in dire need of reform. Today, one of the many contributions still keeping the system afloat comes from the thousands if not millions of undocumented immigrants paying into the system without the ability to see that money again.

Ensign’s amendment would take the retirement money that naturalized citizens had paid into the system, albeit some of it before they became citizens, and leave them with NOTHING.

What good does it do are society to create a class of individuals with no access to retirement funds? It goes against the values of the entire social security system, put in place to help us care for one another and add another level of stability and prosperity to our shared community. This is a value that many, if not all, of us standby- we certainly shouldn’t deny this right to naturalized citizens across the country.

But that’s just our two cents- what do you think? How can we let others across America understand that this isn’t right for us?

Thank you to the National Immigration Law Center for this Release (see list of votes at the very bottom):

July 23, 2007

Last week, in a remarkable display of cowardice and pandering, 57 Senators voted to cut off the Social Security benefits of long-time naturalized citizens unless there is proof that they were work-authorized when they contributed to the system. Luckily, 60 votes were needed for passage, so the amendment failed.

The amendment, offered by Senator John Ensign (R-NV) to H.R. 2669, an unrelated education bill, was falsely advertised as an effort “[t]o reduce document fraud, prevent identity theft, and preserve the integrity of the Social Security system.” Senator Ensign claimed the amendment was necessary to prevent undocumented immigrants from gaining access to social security benefits. Actually, it would have required the Social Security Administration to re-determine the work histories of each of the millions of individuals-citizens and lawfully residing immigrants-now receiving social security who are not “natural-born U.S. citizens.” Any quarters of coverage that could not affirmatively be shown to have been earned while work authorized would no longer count.

The result would be loss or reduction of benefits for large numbers of retired and disabled people now receiving benefits because the records of their status at the time of their contributions are not available. There is no automated system for verifying past employment authorization on a quarter-by-quarter basis, so the burden would fall on each individual to prove that they were work authorized when the work was performed. The amendment provides no exceptions — not for persons who might experience exceptional hardships as a result; nor for elderly persons who would have difficulty cooperating with an investigation into their past status (such as those with dementia); nor even for citizen widows and orphans whose benefits would depend on proving the past status of their deceased spouse or parent.

This is one of the worst examples in a growing trend of politicians seeking or succumbing to broad-sweeping restrictions to our social welfare system under the guise of cracking down on undocumented immigrants – who are already ineligible for the vast array of benefits provided by that system.

We have pasted the vote on the amendment below. PLEASE immediately contact your Senators to criticize their “yea” vote in support of this outrageous proposal, or to praise their principled “nay” vote cast in opposition to it. If we are to change this political climate, it is particularly imperative that the 57 Senators who voted in favor of the amendment feel heat for their vote.

A sample letter criticizing a vote is here. You can find your Senator’s phone number or fax number here.

For more background, a copy of the amendment is here and a brief analysis of its implications is here.

YEAs —57

Alexander (R-TN)
Allard (R-CO)
Barrasso (R-WY)
Baucus (D-MT)
Bayh (D-IN)
Bennett (R-UT)
Bond (R-MO)
Bunning (R-KY)
Burr (R-NC)
Chambliss (R-GA)
Coburn (R-OK)
Cochran (R-MS)
Coleman (R-MN)
Collins (R-ME)
Conrad (D-ND)
Corker (R-TN)
Cornyn (R-TX)
Craig (R-ID)
Crapo (R-ID)
DeMint (R-SC)
Dole (R-NC)
Domenici (R-NM)
Dorgan (D-ND)
Ensign (R-NV)
Enzi (R-WY)
Graham (R-SC)
Grassley (R-IA)
Gregg (R-NH)
Harkin (D-IA)
Hatch (R-UT)
Hutchison (R-TX)
Inhofe (R-OK)
Isakson (R-GA)
Klobuchar (D-MN)
Kyl (R-AZ)
Landrieu (D-LA)
Lincoln (D-AR)
Lott (R-MS)
Martinez (R-FL)
McCain (R-AZ)
McConnell (R-KY)
Murkowski (R-AK)
Nelson (D-NE)
Pryor (D-AR)
Roberts (R-KS)
Rockefeller (D-WV)
Sessions (R-AL)
Shelby (R-AL)
Smith (R-OR)
Snowe (R-ME)
Stevens (R-AK)
Sununu (R-NH)
Tester (D-MT)
Thune (R-SD)
Vitter (R-LA)
Warner (R-VA)
Wyden (D-OR)

NAYs —40

Akaka (D-HI)
Biden (D-DE)
Bingaman (D-NM)
Boxer (D-CA)
Brown (D-OH)
Byrd (D-WV)
Cantwell (D-WA)
Cardin (D-MD)
Carper (D-DE)
Casey (D-PA)
Clinton (D-NY)
Dodd (D-CT)
Durbin (D-IL)
Feingold (D-WI)
Feinstein (D-CA)
Hagel (R-NE)
Inouye (D-HI)
Kennedy (D-MA)
Kerry (D-MA)
Kohl (D-WI)
Lautenberg (D-NJ)
Leahy (D-VT)
Levin (D-MI)
Lieberman (ID-CT)
Lugar (R-IN)
McCaskill (D-MO)
Menendez (D-NJ)
Mikulski (D-MD)
Murray (D-WA)
Nelson (D-FL)
Reed (D-RI)
Reid (D-NV)
Salazar (D-CO)
Sanders (I-VT)
Schumer (D-NY)
Specter (R-PA)
Stabenow (D-MI)
Voinovich (R-OH)
Webb (D-VA)
Whitehouse (D-RI)

Not Voting – 3

Brownback (R-KS) Johnson (D-SD) Obama (D-IL)
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